114. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

11787. For Deputy Undersecretary Read from Charge. Subject: Major Technical Penetration of Embassy Moscow.

1. Assume SY has briefed you on details of major penetration of Embassy premises discovered today. We face urgent and critical decision whether to attempt to remove cabling and other equipment from portion of tunnel which is outside the bounds of Embassy territory. We consider it probable, but not absolutely certain, that the Soviets are aware of our discovery. Nevertheless, our people are confident that they can retrieve much of the cabling without major physical danger (there is without question some danger involved) if they do so tonight.

2. Technicians consider it important to retrieve following from Soviet end of tunnel to determine purpose and characteristics of surveillance system:

A. Section of each of 3 cables which run from metal plate up tunnel, and into Soviet apartment house. These are believed to be RF cables but may conceivably be power cables.

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B. Device (probably coupler) in plastic bag where trip wires and some cabling terminate.

C. Section of each of two cables exiting tunnel roof several feet in front of metal barrier.

3. I am informed that the cable can be cut without danger to person cutting. Retrieval of plastic bag would be accomplished by attaching rope and pulling from our end when all personnel are outside tunnel, in case the trip wire should activate explosive or gas.

4. Aside from physical risk, which is probably acceptable if recovery of items is considered crucial, there is of course the political risk involved in removing objects from Soviet territory. Inasmuch as all of this equipment appears to be a part of a system which has flagrantly violated Embassy territory, a decision to remove would probably be defensible, if the Soviets should complain. However, this is a question of sufficient gravity that I believe it should be decided at a high political level. If it were my decision, I would give it a try.

5. If we are to proceed, we must have instructions no later than 6:00 a.m. Moscow time (11:00 p.m. EST).2

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, Box 3, Moscow Embassy Security, 5/26/78. Secret; Niact Immediate; Exdis Handle as Nodis.
  2. Telegram 135571 to Moscow, May 27, outlined the actions to be taken and the information that should be sent to the Department of State. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780223–1015)